Listen: Emerald City Comic Con has become unstuck in time.
That is to say, the comic book and pop culture convention, normally held around March, was thrown into a sort of temporal vortex by the pandemic, and now it’s floating around on the calendar like a police call box in search of a sidewalk. This year, it’s landed in early December, with a weekend (plus) of panels and guests and artists and games. And with all the pent-up demand, the schedule is crammed full of activities — an overwhelming amount! So I’ve pulled some of my favorites so you can start crafting your schedule of events.
But before we dive in, we should address the sniffling elephant in the room: The pandemic, which is still very much occurring, mutating into whatever an Omicron variant is, and — sorry for the bummer — killing several thousand people per day worldwide. Is it safe to attend a convention right now? Well, I guess we’ll find out! ECCC requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative test in order to enter; masks must be worn at all times; capacity is reduced; they’re arranging the space to put more space between people. And independent of ECCC, the Washington State Convention Center was recently recognized by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council for their outbreak prevention measures.
So to sum up, ECCC seems safe … ish. In reading over the precautions, it really seems like the level of risk depends on how well individual attendees adhere to safe practices. Keep your mask on; give everyone enough distance; cough into your elbow, and it should … probably … hopefully ... be safe to attend. And you WILL want to attend, if for no other reason than to protest the panel on NFTs.
As usual, there’s a tremendous number of cosplay panels, and a good place to start is Strong Foundations, where a panel of costume-building experts will guide you through the various underpinnings of a garment that will withstand the rigors of a con. There’s also a panel on Cosplay Sewing, Bodypaint Basics, Diverse Hairstyles, and Photography so you can show off your creation once it’s come together.
And speaking of showing off, browse through the schedule for cosplay meetups in your fandom of choice; among the options are Power Rangers, Firefly, Game of Thrones, and many more, as well as kid-themed gatherings. You may also appreciate the community and self-esteem-boost of panels on Body Positivity, Confidence Through Cosplay, and Cosplay as a Team Sport.
Adjacent to cosplay are the numerous panels on crafting and construction projects. Begin your weekend on Thursday (the new Friday) with a presentation about building Star Wars droids — and watch out for faulty regulators. On Friday, the group SheProp! will answer questions about prop-making, with a focus on women and non-binary artists. There’s an entire hour dedicated just to wrangling foam for crafting projects on Saturday (as I write this I am sitting next to four giant purple XPS panels and I want you to know that I feel your pain, foamworkers). And on Sunday, an intriguing talk about using Star Wars and 3D printing as a means to teach STEM skills.
SONG & DANCE
I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised by just how many panels are dedicated to sing-alongs this year! It begins Thursday night with a sing-along to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog — can you believe the staying power of that project? Not that I want it to go away, I just can’t believe how successful it continues to be. I’m truly befuddled to see a sing-along for the movie Greatest Showman the next night. I mean yes some of the songs are quite catchy but really??? Of all musicals, THIS one? Okay, so Wolverine is in it, but he’s also in The Miserables, surely that has more of a following? I just don’t know who the Greatest Showman fandom is.
Anyway, enough complaining. If you like Greatest Showman good for you, I just don’t get it. What I do get is the Rocky Horror screening on Friday night, and the open-mic karaoke (which is advertised as “late night” but runs from 5:45 to 7:45 pm, huh).
I am also a little surprised to see a Hamilton sing-along on Saturday afternoon. I know I sound like I don’t like musicals or sing-alongs and I promise nothing could be further from the truth! I once spent weeks compiling and subtitling every TV show opening I could find for a three-hour theme song sing-along party. (Duck Tales just about brought the house down, I’ll tell you what.) I am just a little flummoxed by some of the choices!
ANYWAY. Less mysterious to me is the Steven Universe sing-along on Sunday, an experience that I have long dreamed of and am very much looking forward to/will cry at, in part because I think young Greg in “Just a Comet” is the second-hottest cartoon character I’ve ever seen. Who is the first hottest? Well, perhaps he and Maid Marian will appear at the Disney sing-along, also on Sunday.
BREAKING INTO THE BIZ
Aspiring artists, writers, letterers, colorists, etc will be glad to hear that there are a handful of practical professional-development panels that are not to be missed. It begins with a Breaking Into Comics panel, hosted by three industry pros, followed by a Crafting Fictional Worlds panel all about creating compelling settings. And while Business and Law Basics may feel like more of a headache than it’s worth, oh geez you’re really better off protecting your work.
I’m also happy to see a panel dedicated to the “behind the scenes” comics professionals who don’t always get credited in issues — the folks who handle logistics, printing, finances, and so on. But if you’d rather just set pencil to paper, that’s fine too; head on over to Anime Art Basics.
There are a handful of panels that seem extremely neat but don’t really fit into a tidy category alongside others — for example, one on podcasting basics with the McElroys. I’ve been to similar panels of theirs at Podcon (RIP) and they’re super helpful.
In a strange programming quirk, a panel on Samurai Sword Sparring is scheduled at almost the exact same time as another on Japanese Fairy Tales. Yes they are of course very different topics and yetttttt if someone is interested in Japanese culture I can see them feeling a little bummed that they can only choose one.
Two exciting guest panels: Levar Burton takes the main stage Saturday afternoon, and several Power Rangers will appear a few hours later to talk about the show and answer questions. I still have questions about the manner in which Billy departed — but David Yost, alas, is not among those scheduled to appear. (I would also like to ask a few questions of Julia Cortez, who played Rita in the 1995 movie and played the problematic wife in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. What a résumé!)
There is also, and I have no doubt there will be VIGOROUS discussion of this, a pro-NFT panel, hosted by the president of a company focused on the comic and crypto sectors, to which I say “hm,” my eyes narrowing in suspicion.